Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec director Gianni Savio is under fire in Italy's latest inquiry into riders being forced to pay to race for Professional Continental teams. In a recent press release, Savio admits that he hired one rider because he brought in sponsorship, but believes that this contract is unrelated to the inquiry on hand.
News broke on Friday in the Corriere della Sera that there is an on-going Italian inquiry investigating allegations that teams Androni, Bardiani-CSF and Wilier-Southeast have forced some riders to pay their own way or bring in additional sponsors in order to earn a professional contract, and that riders have later been required to pay an additional fee on leaving teams.
"I am totally unrelated to any story related to "riders who pay to race," Savio said in a press release on Monday.
Corriere della Sera also reported that the team managers Gianni Savio, Bruno Reverberi and Angelo Citracca are at risk of between one-year and life bans if found guilty of wrongdoing by the investigation carried out by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
Savio said his lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone has requested the CONI Attorney's Office copy of the complete file to assess the statements that have been made against him and his team, and if they can be considered libel.
Savio has responded to the investigation into his hiring practices admitting that he brought in rider Patrick Facchini in 2013, a rider who brought with him two additional sponsors; Consortium of Valli del Chiese and BM GROUP, but he insisted that the contracts were legitimate and followed the rules.
"I am accused to have hired rider Patrick Facchini in 2013 just because he was supported by a sponsor," Savio said.
"Here are the facts: at the end of 2012 - when our staff for the 2013 season was already complete - I was approached by cyclist Patrick Facchini who told me he was interested to go Professional in our team. I answered him that I could not engage any new athlete since the economic resources for hiring riders were over. Mr. Facchini told me that the Consortium of Valli del Chiese was interested in giving a sponsorship, also involving a major company like BM GROUP, and added that an official of the Consortium would have liked to meet me, being interested in promoting their brand through the world of cycling.
"I went to the headquarters of the Consortium and - considering their real interest in a promotion campaign - began negotiations that ended with a sponsorship agreement, with both the Consortium and the BM GROUP, for the presence of the two brands on the race jersey in the season 2013.
"The official of the Consortium and the manager of BM GROUP told me that the conclusion of the contract were linked to the hiring of Patrick Facchini and I accepted since the rider had the sporting quality to go pro, having won some prestigious races of the amateur calendar."
In the press release, Savio said that he intends to bring this information forward at the CONI hearing and that he will bring both official of the Consortium and the manager of BM GROUP as witnesses.
"These are the facts concerning the hiring of the rider and I'll let the public judge whether my behavior might be considered contrary to fair play."